Former Nadroga and Fiji rugby winger Ravuama Latilevu said the late Rupeni Qaraniqio would be very hard to replace.
Latilevu, who travelled all the way from Keiyasi Village in the upper reaches of the Sigatoka River, was among the hundreds of mourners who attended Qaraniqio's funeral at Cuvu Village in Nadroga on Saturday.
He recalled during Nadroga's nine-year reign on the Farebrother Trophy in the 1970s that there was great combination among players and team bonding was very strong.
"But after seven years of continuous playing rugby week-in and week-out, my interest in rugby started to grow weak because my body had had enough playing for Nadroga and Fiji," said Latilevu. He said Qaraniqio was the one who urged him not to hang his boots just yet.
"He was a pack leader who led the attack up front.
"During the Tongan tour in 1972, Quran (Qaraniqio) showed his class by outplaying his opposite number and was a dominant player in the first Test."
Latilevu said Qaraniqio stamped his mark as Fiji's number one flanker during the tour.
"He played in all three Tests and what I admire during that tour was how Rupeni was never intimidated by the big Tongan forwards."
The ginger-haired former winger said Qaraniqio was a marked man in the remaining matches, including the two Tests.
"I was on the right wing during the last two Tests and saw several times from the flank how Quran was on the receiving end of some heavy tackling and the Tongans were stamping on his head and even some punches were thrown but he always shook off the dust and continued to play. He was super fit and courageous that the Tongans failed to put him out," said Latilevu.
"I still rate Quran and Rodney Samuels as the best flankers for Fiji and I have been following Fiji rugby for the last 20 years but no one beats these two in that position."
Meli Nasauravua said Qaraniqio was a born leader and he played with passion for Nadroga and Fiji.
Napolioni Vitau remembered how his uncle Qaraniqio initiated a move that saw Etuate 'Honda' Gusuivalu score the winning try against Lautoka during the defence of the Farebrother at Lawaqa Park in early 1980s.
Vitau said Qaraniqio's mere presence before any Nadroga team enters the field was a great motivator.